In APA style, authors’ names, along with year of publication, are the essential link between parenthetical or narrative citations and reference lists. Narrative and parenthetical citations use only authors’ last names. In reference lists, use the last names as well as the first initial (middle initials are optional). Do not write out authors’ first or middle names, only their last names. See the many examples in the examples provided in the other sections of this page about authors’ names in APA citation.
If your source only has one author listed, you’re in luck. The rules for one author are simple.
In parenthetical citations, you put that author’s last name as the first part of the citation followed by a comma and then the year of publication, like this:
A recent study has shown that students can easily learn APA style (Ndiaye, 2019).
In narrative (in-text) citations, you mention the author's name in a sentence, followed by the publication date in parentheses, like this:
Ndiaye (2019) found that students can easily learn APA style.
You can also use an apostrophe on the author’s name, like this:
Ndiaye’s (2019) study found that students can easily learn APA style.
Then, in the reference list, the author’s last name goes first, followed by a comma, then by the first initial of the author’s first name and the initials of any other names used, then by the publication date and the rest of the reference.
Ndiaye, G. (2019). Students learn APA easily: A double-blind study of 4,929 undergraduates. Journal of Citation, 71(2), 59-81.
If your source has two authors, follow these rules.
For two authors in narrative citations, include both names with an “and” between them, as in:
In narrative (in-text) citations, you mention the two authors’ names in a sentence, followed by the publication date in parentheses, like this:
Ndiaye and Lopez (2019) find that students can easily learn APA style.
In parenthetical citations, you put the two authors’ last names as the first part of the citation. The first and second authors’ names are separated by an ampersand (&) and the second author’s name is followed by a comma and then the year of publication, like this:
Most students learn the basics of APA citation (Ndiaye & Lopez, 2019).
In the reference list, also put a comma and an ampersand (&) between the names, as in:
Ndiaye, G., & B. Lopez. (2019). Students shown to learn APA easily. Journal of Citation 72(3), 4617-4629.
Note that in the reference list, the second author’s first initial comes first, followed by the last name (without a comma between them).
THREE OR MORE AUTHORS
In both narrative (in-text) and parenthetical citations, if a source has three or more authors, use only the first author’s last name followed by the Latin phrase “et al.” (short for et alia, meaning “and others”). In a narrative (in-text) citation, it would look like this:
Diallo et al. (2020) argue that the three most common citation styles are equally easy to learn.
In a parenthetical citation, it would look like this:
The three most common citation styles have been found to be equally easy to learn (Diallo et al., 2020).
You do not use “et al.” in reference list entries. In reference lists, list all authors, up to twenty (see below if there are more than twenty authors). The reference entry for the above examples would look like this:
Diallo, N., B. Reyes, & P. Sanchez. (2020). Comparative difficulty of the three most commonly used citation styles. International Review of Citation Studies, 16, 41-59.
When there are twenty-one or more authors (yes, some scholarly articles have a huge number of authors), include the first nineteen authors’ names, insert three periods (called an ellipsis) but no ampersand (&), and then add the final author’s name. Here's an example:
Kalnay, E., Kanamitsu, M., Kistler, R., Collins, W., Deaven, D., Gandin, L., Iredell, M., Saha, S., White, G., Woollen, J., Zhu, Y., Chelliah, M., Ebisuzaki, W., Higgins, W., Janowiak, J., Mo, K. C., Ropelewski, C., Wang, J., Leetmaa, A., ... Joseph, D. (1999). The NCEP/NCAR 40-year reanalysis project. Bulletin of the American Meterological Society, 77(3), 437-471. https://doi.org/fg6rf9
If no author is shown on your source, put the title first, followed by the publication date. [Only use “Anonymous” as the author if the work specifically names the author as “Anonymous,” as in (Anonymous, 2020).] In narrative (in-text) and parenthetical citations, use the first few words of the title. Here is an example how to do this in narrative (in-text) and parenthetical citations, as well as in a reference entry:
NARRATIVE/IN-TEXT CITATION: The article “Whales in the ocean” (2020) describes the large mammals as “persnickety.”
PARENTHETICAL CITATION: There are ninety known species of whales (Whales in the ocean, 2020).
REFERENCE ENTRY: Whales in the ocean. (2020). Ocean Life Magazine. https://www.oceanlife.com